Lacquer vs. Silver Plated

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by lakerjazz, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    On my old student horn, the lacquer came off very quickly, while my friend's "intermediate" silver-plated trumpet had not worn at all. This led me to believe that a combination of my body chemistry and the fact that the horn was lacquered had caused this deterioration.

    It has now been about a year since I got my Olds Recording lacquered at Kanstul- naturally, I play it more often than I played my student horn, because I'm growing as a player and practice more. No lacquer has worn off. It has also been about a year since the SAME friend got an Andreas Eastman trumpet and the silver has come off in the same areas that the lacquer came off on my student horn.

    From what I've read, Andreas Eastman has been known to apply thin plating, and Kanstul may apply a thicker coat of lacquer than is usually done. This is all added on to the fact that lacquer, even in regular applications, is applied in a much thicker layer than silver plate.

    Still, this leads me to question- Is lacquer really more prone to wear than silver?

    Are we so used to having a student trumpet whose company, in order to save money, puts a thinner layer of lacquer than it could (or should)? Do we then buy a professional horn that is silver-plated (the norm for pro horns) at a solid level because no sacrifices to quality have been made? Do we then conclude that silver-plate is less prone to wear than lacquer?

    Basically, if the norm of lacquer application were tweaked to match the higher content provided Kanstul, or the norm of silver-plating were tweaked to match the lowered content of Andreas Eastman, we probably wouldn't reach the same conclusions about the durability of silver plate.

    The relative balance between silver-plate and lacquer could be off because of the general pattern of the market (student horns-lacquer, pro horns-silver)


    The reason I didn't mention gold was because, from my understanding, gold does not wear at all. Is this true? Does anyone have experience with sweat eating up gold plate?

    Also, I've assumed that the thickness of silver plating on my friend's bach intermediate trumpet was the same as it would have been on a bach strad. From my understanding, silver-plating is one of the few perks of an intermediate horn, so the company would at least put a solid coating.
  2. Cornet1

    Cornet1 Pianissimo User

    May 22, 2005
    Essex, England
    Typically, silver plate is a much more durable and longlasting finish than lacquer. That said, there is good and bad in both. I have a hundred year old cornet with excellent, albeit now worn, siver plate. My usual instrument which I play most (made by Boosey & Hawkes in the early 1980's) has excellent silver with very slight wear in a couple of pressure points. Lac would certainly have become tatty by know on the same instruments. I regularly see a Jupiter trumpet that is 10 years old and has given excellent service due to being well looked after, however, the lac is gone now on numerous places. I don'e think the relatively los cost of the jupiter has been a factor so much as the 10 years.

    Silver plate MUST be applied properly over clean metal, and be of sufficient thickness.

    Interestingly, the only Kanstul instrument that I have ever seen, as they are very rare here in the UK, had some of the worst quality control issues that I have ever seen in many years. The silver plate had bubbles due to dirty perparation before plating and also serious valve problems. In fact, despite the apparently high profile of the maker, I would describe it as a low quality instrument.
  3. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    Lakerjazz doesn't say how old his "old student horn" is/was, but over the years the chemical makeup of the lacquer has changed, as has the application techniques, which can lead to much better coverage and a thicker coat of a lacquer which will wear longer than earlier formulations. Plus Kanstul will do a complete and thorough job of buffing and especially degreasing the instrument before applying the lacquer, whereas at the factory where the student model trumpet was made they may not have been as careful because at such factories the number of horns going out the door on any given day is the most important factor, not how excellent the lacquer jobs are.

    Lacquer and plating are design decisions -- the lacquer it typically 10x as thick as the plating (.004 inches for lacquer vs. .0004 inches for plating) and some makers may feel that an extremely thin layer of plating helps their instruments sound better. It's not that anybody is being cheap in the process, just a design issue concerning overall mass of the instrument as well as how much plated metal is added to the core brass of the instrument.
  4. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    There is one other issue to consider here. Whenever silver is polished - either with something out of a bottle or jar, or with those special impregnated cloths, you can see black residue from the polishing process. That residue is your sliver plating being removed. The more often and vigorously the item is polished, the faster the plating goes. My wife has a silver tea set she inherited from her grandmother who was an incessant polisher. The silver is almost totally gone (except in those nooks and crannies where it was hard to polish) and as far as I know, those items were almost never touched except when being polished.

    Because the chemistry of our hands may cause a trumpet to tarnish faster in certain spots, those will have more silver removed when polishing so that is why we see a typical pattern of wear in the silver after awhile.

    The one chemical that does not seem to create black residue is TarnX. I don't know what it does differently and I cannot promise that it reduces the rate of wear on the silver but since there is no residue, I have to assume that it is not removing the silver. Whether it is turning the oxidized material back to shiny silver or not, I am not sure yet. I don't have the time to experiment with it to find out. In the meantime, I always wipe down my trumpet after playing with a non-chemical soft cloth. I have only had my Eastman trumpet for 6 months, not a year, but so far I do not see any signs of wear in the silver. I will keep an eye on it and see what develops.

    Most of my lacquered trumpets were purchased used and they are all 30-50 years old. Most have really bad lacquer but almost always the problem is in areas that you would predict - the valve body (from holding it), the bell rim and bell crook (from laying it down on a hard surface) although some seem to have cracks in the lacquer all over. I would guess that the modern methods may create a more durable method of lacquering than these old horns had. But, even so, it appears to me that a properly done silver plating job, if properly cared for, will outlast most lacquer jobs.
  5. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    The student trumpet is 6 year old, but it started to wear after about a year. My overall point was that maybe the difference on the focus of quality has a lot more to do with the apparent durability of silver plate. If the quality of the application differed from the norm, as shown in the Kanstul lacquer and Andreas Eastman silver, body chemistry may be the only factor in the wear of the horns.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    This has been covered HUNDREDS of times with the same results: there is NO DIFFERENCE in QUALITY and only a slight difference in sound.
    On a Bach trumpet, silver holds up better, with a Yamaha it makes no difference.

    Silver is primarily bought for cosmetic reasons and then the BS starts about its superiority. If that is what a player wants to believe, I let them. It is similar to believing that black undergarments make you more sexy.....................
  7. Blind Bruce

    Blind Bruce Pianissimo User

    Apr 17, 2009
    Winnipeg Canada
    Robin, I haven't worn black undergarmets for many years now but I'm still sexy.:cool:
  8. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    Rowuk, what can you say about gold?

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